Women's attitudes to being asked about exposure to violence

Midwifery. 2001 Mar;17(1):2-10. doi: 10.1054/midw.2000.0241.


Objective: to examine women's attitudes to being questioned by their midwife, during and after pregnancy, about exposure to violence.

Design: an explorative study using content analysis of one open-ended question.

Setting: all antenatal clinics in Uppsala, a medium-sized Swedish university town.

Participants: all women registered for antenatal care before 32 weeks of pregnancy, during a period of 6 months.

Measurements: all women were assessed regarding abuse, using the Abuse Assessment Screen (McFarlane 1993) twice during pregnancy and once again more than four weeks after the birth. On the last occasion the women were asked to respond to an open-ended written question worded: 'Please describe how you felt about being questioned by your midwife at the antenatal clinic concerning violence' Those women who reported violence and those who did not were compared regarding their attitude to being asked about violence.

Findings: 879 women were presented with the open-ended question. Eighty per cent found the questioning acceptable, 12% neither acceptable nor unacceptable, 5% both acceptable and unacceptable, and only 3% found it unacceptable. There was no difference between those who reported abuse and those who did not, as to whether the questioning was unacceptable.

Conclusions and implications for practice: the findings suggest that most pregnant women are not averse to being asked, by their midwife, about exposure to violence. As part of the identification of risk factors that is carried out in every pregnancy, the midwife should ask about exposure to violence at the antenatal clinic. To feel confident when raising the subject of abuse, midwives must be taught about the nature of intimate-partner violence, and appropriate referral and intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Welfare
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / methods
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards
  • Sweden